Neck Pain Working From Home
Within the past few months, approximately 42% of Americans have been reported to be working from home. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak forced many people to transition to working entirely at home, 1 in 6 people worked either fully or partially from their homes. It is predicted that many employers will continue their “work from home” strategies regardless of pandemics, so making sure employees have a space that allows them to successfully do their work is crucial for their own health and for the companies.
While working remotely has numerous benefits for employees and employers, there are certainly some downfalls. One of these downfalls can be seemingly unexplainable or brand new aches and pains. You probably thought you’d never miss your clunky office chair or tacky old desk, but they were likely designed to keep you in an ergonomically-friendly position that reduced the strains that can be put on the body by poor work posture.
If you are one, of many, who switched from a workstation that was designed for your efficiency and comfort to a workstation on your couch – this information is for you. If you have worked from home for years and have had persistent pain in your back, hips, shoulders, wrists, or anywhere – this information is for you. If you’re an employer who has seen a decline in your employees’ efficiency and performance – this information is for you.
As working from home becomes much more commonplace, it is critical to create a workstation that keeps your posture relaxed in order to work efficiently. It is all too easy to allow yourself to do your work from the couch, or propped up in bed with half of your focus on Season 5 of Game of Thrones and the other half on your 5th Zoom meeting of the week. It sounds great, but those positions greatly compromise your posture, putting unnecessary and damaging strain on your body.
The first part of proper work ergonomics is to ensure that you give yourself a place that is strictly for work. Being out of your usual work space and routine can make it difficult to focus on the tasks at hand. Make sure that you are able to set up a space in your home that is dedicated to work, such as a home office or a specific space at the kitchen table.
Once you have established a good work area, set up your computer or laptop to accommodate both short and long term work periods. For a short work period of 30 minutes or less, make sure that your arms are supported by a desk or table and at about a 90 degree angle as you type. This postion helps prevent your shoulders from rolling forward and your neck from protruding. This also keeps the wrists from straining as you work.
When setting up your work area for a full day of work, paying attention to the height of your screen(s) is a high priority. The top third of your laptop screen should be in line with your eyes, which means that you are not slouching forward or looking downwards to comfortably see the screen. Further, a detachable keyboard is key in this scenario to prevent you from reaching up to type or use a mouse.
To encourage proper seated posture, make sure that your hips and knees are each at about a 90 degree angle. Feet should be able to rest comfortably on the floor. Having an adjustable chair can assist in proper hip and leg alignment. Additionally, using a pillow or some form of lumbar reinforcement behind the back can provide support to the spine and keep optimal spinal curvatures.
If your work-at-home situation is going to be long term, investing in the proper chair, desk and computer will pay huge dividends. If not, you can always spend your money on co-pays at the chiropractor.
Dr. Robert “Bo”Andel